Scientific Understanding : Philosophical Perspectives

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2009-10-28
  • Publisher: Univ of Pittsburgh Pr
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To most scientists, and to those interested in the sciences, understanding is the ultimate aim of scientific endeavor. In spite of this, understanding, and how it is achieved, has received little attention in recent philosophy of science.Scientific Understandingseeks to reverse this trend by providing original and in-depth accounts of the concept of understanding and its essential role in the scientific process. To this end, the chapters in this volume explore and develop three key topics: understanding and explanation, understanding and models, and understanding in scientific practice. Earlier philosophers, such as Carl Hempel, dismissed understanding as subjective and pragmatic. They believed that the essence of science was to be found in scientific theories and explanations. In Scientific Understanding, the contributors maintain that we must also consider the relation between explanations and the scientists who construct and use them. They focus on understanding as the cognitive state that is a goal of explanation and on the understanding of theories and models as a means to this end. The chapters in this book highlight the multifaceted nature of the process of scientific research. The contributors examine current uses of theory, models, simulations, and experiments to evaluate the degree to which these elements contribute to understanding. Their analyses pay due attention to the roles of intelligibility, tacit knowledge, and feelings of understanding. Furthermore, they investigate how understanding is obtained within diverse scientific disciplines and examine how the acquisition of understanding depends on specific contexts, the objects of study, and the stated aims of research.

Author Biography

Henk de Regt is a philosophy lecturer at VU University Amsterdam. He has published on the history and philosophy of science, with a focus on scientific explanation and understanding. He is co-founder of the European Philosophy of Science Association and of the Society for Philosophy of Science in Practice.

Sabina Leonelli is a research fellow of the ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society (Egenis) at the University of Exeter, UK. She investigates philosophical issues in relation to bioinformatics and model organism research in the biomedical sciences.

Kai Eigner teaches philosophy of science at VU University Amsterdam. His research focuses on scientific understanding in the behavioral and cognitive sciences.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Focusing on Scientific Understandingp. 1
Understanding, Explanation, and Intelligibility
Understanding and Scientific Explanationp. 21
Understanding without Explanationp. 43
Ontological Principles and the Intelligibility of Epistemic Activitiesp. 64
Reliability and the Sense of Understandingp. 83
The Illusion of Depth of Understanding in Sciencep. 100
Understanding and Models
Understanding in Physics and Biology: From the Abstract to the Concretep. 123
Understanding by Modeling: An Objectual Approachp. 146
The Great Deluge: Simulation Modeling and Scientific Understandingp. 169
Understanding in Scientific Practices
Understanding in Biology: The Impure Nature of Biological Knowledgep. 189
Understanding in Economics: Gray-Box Modelsp. 210
Understanding in Physics: Bottom-Up versus Top-Downp. 230
Understanding in the Engineering Sciences: Interpretive Structuresp. 249
Understanding in Psychology: Is Understanding a Surplus?p. 271
Understanding in Political Science: The Plurality of Epistemic Interestsp. 298
Understanding in Historical Science: Intelligibility and Judgmentp. 314
Contributorsp. 335
Indexp. 339
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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